Improve Spanish Pronunciation and Spelling

March 8, 2022 World Language Cafe by Sherry Sebesta

Not sure how to improve your students’ Spanish pronunciation and spelling?  Tired of spending so much time correcting papers with incorrect spelling?

Spelling in Spanish is so simple once students know the letter sounds.  In Spanish, you can literally sound out a word and spell it correctly almost every time.  So much easier than English or French!  When you improve student pronunciation, student spelling improves as well.  These two skills go hand in hand.

Improve Spanish Pronunciation
Improve Spanish Pronunciation

You’ll notice a huge difference because your students will:

1. Correctly spell words that they have never seen before

2. Understand more of what they hear

3. Feel more confident in their Spanish abilities

My favorite ways to improve Spanish pronunciation and spelling

1.  Spend way more time teaching the alphabet and letter sounds.

It’s so easy to quickly teach the alphabet at the beginning of the year and then move on.  But every minute that you invest in teaching letter sounds will pay dividends throughout the year.  In particular, teaching the vowel sounds is super important.  Here’s the quick method that I use to help students master sounds:

Start with the vowels: AEIOU.

Write them on the board, point to them individually, and have the class say the sounds until they know them well.  Say a sound and they write the letter.

Idea:  Boom Cards are a great way for students to practice the alphabet and letters in class or at home.

Grab these free Spanish Alphabet Boom Cards in my Free Resource Library.  Enter your email to sign up and then you’ll get the password and access to the Boom Cards, as well as 20 other awesome resources.



Want more?  Check out the Spanish Alphabet Boom Bundle (4 decks of 125+ cards).  Great for sub plans!

Introduce the ll, rr, ñ sounds.  

When I was trying to learn how to say the rr sound, I’d been studying French and realized that the rr was a bit similar to the r in French.  My students practice by saying the word parler, with a rough r sound.  Then I have them say it while trying to roll their r’s.  This method seems to work fairly well because it shows them where the sound comes from in their mouths.

Show examples of words that include these sounds.  

amarillo, llamo, chile relleno

perro, burro, churros

español, mañana, año

Teach key suffixes.  

       -dad = ity           comunidad = community      ciudad = city       humanidad = humanity

      -ción = tion        revolución = revolution         emoción = emotion       ficción = fiction

When you teach -dad, it’s a great time to mention that consonants in Spanish are much softer than they are in English.  Show differences between d, t, p, and b/v.

Remind them that often in English, when we say consonants, puffs of air come out of our mouths.  However, in Spanish, very little air should come out of your mouth.  Have them say letters with their hands in front of their mouths so they can feel the difference.

Helpful Practice Words: 





Teach students to emphasize accents correctly. 

Tell students to think of a mountain with a peak when they see an accent mark.  Draw a hill shape above the words with the peak above the accent.  Emphasize the build up to the accent and then the downhill release afterwards.

2.  Have students read out loud in the target language. 

You’ll be amazed what a difference this makes in students’ ability to speak. It’s interesting because even though they aren’t receiving native speaker input, the process of sounding out words and reading them aloud helps pronunciation.

You may have noticed that young kids read out loud with very halting speech patterns.  Non-native language learners do this as well. However, the more they read out loud, the more fluid and easy reading becomes.  Surprisingly, within 5 minutes of reading aloud, you’ll notice a huge difference in their reading fluidity.

Idea:  Have them make a recording of themselves reading for 5 minutes as a homework assignment.  You don’t need to listen to it, but this will hold them accountable and when they read when it’s quiet, they can hear themselves better than if everyone tries to do this at once in class.

P.S.  It’s really helpful to have a Spanish Reading Library in your classroom for activities like this.

Create a Reading Library
Create a Reading Library

3.  Dictation

While dictation may be considered an old-school language teaching method, it is very effective. If you find yourself with a few extra minutes at the end of class, read a paragraph and have students write it down.  This will teach to listen carefully, spell more accurately, and use accents marks and punctuation correctly.

To make it super easy, pick any passage from something online in Spanish and record yourself reading it slowly with pauses in between sentences.  Play the recording.  Afterwards, project the passage for them to see and correct.

Prep 10 short dictations in advance so you have them ready to go when you have extra time.  Bonus Points if you find funny passages that make them laugh.

Improve Spanish Pronunciation
Improve Spanish Pronunciation

I hope that these simple, yet effective ideas improve your students’ Spanish pronunciation and spelling.  Which other creative methods do you use to practice pronunciation?  Please share your ideas in the comments.

Happy teaching!
Sherry Sebesta
World Language Cafe by Sherry Sebesta

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